It seems like every other month, a new fad diet comes out, declaring new revolutions in the science and health community that guarantee quick weight loss. Most recently the Ketone Diet has dominated the news with promises that this particular diet method has unlocked the mystery of why so many people are overweight.
To be fair, these diets do work and there is a lot of scientific backing to substantiate the claims. The problem is, most of these diets are pretty much the exact same thing, only rebranded with a new, shiny label, hoping consumers won’t know that these concepts have been around for ages. Yes, the “creators” of these new plans may find ways to tweak a few dietary recommendations, but the premise of these diets is essentially the same. So, I’m going to break down what each of these fad diets promises and explain why you can use the baseline philosophies to maintain a healthy weight.
The Atkins Diet
Some of you probably remember the height of the Atkins craze during the turn of the century. It was promoted everywhere and really was the crux of society’s understanding of carbohydrates. What’s interesting about the Atkins diet is that it has been around for decades. Dr. Atkins was a physician who wrote a book in 1972 about the correlation between carbohydrates (specifically, high-glycemic index foods) and weight gain. Unfortunately, his theory was widely criticized, mostly because the sugar industry was lobbying hard for fat-free diets, making false claims that fat was the culprit. It wasn’t until around 2001 that our understanding of the role sugar and carbs play in weight gain was turned on its face, largely because of the Atkins diet. Suddenly, everyone was swapping out their low-fat crackers and rice cakes for bun-less hamburgers and high-protein power bars. And it worked. Not only were people showing significant results, their overall health was better, too.
Atkins became so wildly popular that they branded their very own line of foods, drinks, books, and candies. Furthermore, they pushed the sales of ketosis kits –pee strips that could measure the amount of fat your body was breaking down. Which brings me to the next diet…
Short for the Ketogenic diet, this currently popular means of weight loss focuses on the level of ketosis in the body. Ketones are byproducts of burning fat and are extracted through the kidneys into the urine. Our bodies naturally prefer carbohydrates because they are easy to store and even more easy to extract when we need fuel. That means, when the average person on the average diet utilizes its energy source to do activities, the body automatically reaches for the stored carbs because they are easier and quicker to convert to fuel. When we starve ourselves of carbohydrates, the body needs to extract energy from our fat storages. This means fat gets broken down and proof of that fat carnage is the release of ketones through the excretion process. The premise of this diet is that if you can limit your carbohydrate intake to a point in which your body is always in a steady state of ketosis, then you will lose weight pretty rapidly. They even sell Ketodiet kits that you can use at home to make sure you are at optimal ketosis levels. Sound familiar?
The South Beach Diet
Jumping off the success of Atkins Diet, another cardiovascular doctor was noticing trends of his unhealthy clients and their eating habits. He realized that most people have no concept of what a diet program should look like so he started his own. This program is pretty specific with what you can eat and when you can eat it.
The First 2 weeks on this plan, you eliminate ALL sugars and carbs. This even includes things like fruit (that are known to have substantial amounts of fructose) and hidden sugars found in baked beans, ketchup, and sauces. This is called the Reboot Stage and it’s pretty much reprogramming your body so it can learn how to function correctly on optimal foods. The next 2 weeks, you can slowly introduce carbohydrates back into your diet but they must be healthy and low on the glycemic index. The purpose of this is to find an optimal level of carbs you can eat without gaining weight. The third stage is simply to continue utilizing a diet, high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates.
While South Beach is more involved with the time of day to eat certain foods (for example, you should only eat carbohydrates late in the day so your glucose levels wont spike early on, causing you to overeat), it still uses the fundamental concept that sugars/carbs = bad and fat/protein = good
The takeaway is that, if you’ve had success with any particular diet plan, stick with it. But if you are trying to find a diet that works for you, you don’t necessarily have to sign up for any of these. Each plan tries to market it as different and more effective than all the other ones but they are all pretty much the same.
1) Eat as few carbohydrates as possible and when you do, make sure they are healthy ones (like fruit or couscous or oatmeal). Avoid breads, crackers, cookies,
cakes… you get the point. Avoid anything that might give you any slimmer of hope happiness in your life.
2) Protein, protein, protein. You really can’t get enough of the stuff
3) Fat isn’t bad so don’t avoid it like the plague (like we used to think we had to)
4) If you are worried about what level of ketosis you are in, there are kits you can buy rand take home and test your levels
There you go. I saved you money and lots of reading.
Oh yeah, also exercise cuz….. duh.